On 9th of October Netflix released Haunting of Bly Manor by Mike Flanagan, a modern twist on the book series by Shirley Jackson which has been described as, "ominous, scary and dark".
Set at night after a wedding reception, we are sat around a chimney. An elderly woman (Carla Gugino) sits in an armchair and begins to tell what she described as a short not so nice story.
The story begins with Carla as the narrator, actor Victoria Pedretti, known here as Dani Clayton, is a teacher from America moves to London to find a job. Through a newspaper ad, Dani meets with an alcoholic lawyer, Henry Wingrave. Henry is in search for a ‘carer’ for his young niece and nephew, Flora and Miles. After the death of their parents on a trip to India, they are in desperate need of affection. En-route to Bly Manor we get a sense that for Dani this might be an escape from something which we are yet unsure of. On site at this Manor which resembles the Manor from Haunting of Hill House, Dani finds the youngest: Flora, in front of a pond to which she claims is a “just a smelly old pond”. The story follows Dani figuring out why Flora and Miles are acting so strange, but we come to discover a series of odd, unfortunate events led to us being shocked to have misjudged the cleverness and kindness of both children. In the third episode ‘Two Faces, Part One’ we are introduced to the previous chauffeur: Peter (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). Who is characterised here as the antagonist and the embodiment of abandonment.
I thought this series made a strong connection to Haunting of Hillhouse: like issues within the family, in the fifth episode we see a connection between the soaring of different dimensions (as a reference to the Bend Neck Lady). More importantly we see a similarity in ghosts haunting the Houses, but in Bly Manor the plot thickens, as the ghosts living in the Manor are all Cursed. In the second last episode: We are introduced to Viola Willoughby who was the former Mistress of Bly Manor in the early 18th century.
The story entails that due to patriarchy; Dani and her sister; Perdita, were in a need of finding a man for an heir for the Manor. Clever Viola wants to keep her power in the Manor, she lets her younger sister get the first taste of him, to only return as the mysterious girl and he falls for it. They have a daughter, Isabel. Upon her birth, she tells her daughter “you, me, us”. Yet, the “rosy days passed” and Viola falls sick, before her death, she packs her finest gowns, jewels, and finery and made her husband promise he would give them to their daughter after Viola's death. Viola is then betrayed and murdered, in revenge every night for centuries she walks to the Manor in hopes of seeing her daughter. Every night she walks to the point where she doesn't even remember her daughter nor herself and loses her identity. Thus, her face is wiped off. In the last episode “The Beast in the Jungle” Viola captures Flora, but luckily Dani runs after Flora. In the desperate attempt to save Flora, Dani says the unthinkable, she says the spell “you, me, us”. In that moment all the ghosts are detached from the curse of Viola. But Viola was still in Dani and the part of her inside was quiet for now, but its rage was waiting to erupt. On a night out Owen tells Dani, how Miles and Flora, now 17, have forgotten about it all, but Dani has not and that was the price she was willing to pay for the children which she loved.
After the story is over, we come back to present at the wedding reception to realise that the this was no ghost story but Carla (Jamie) trying to make Flora the bride in that room remember what had happened, in memoriam to Dani, for saving her life. Yet, I think there is also a deeper meaning in this TV series that maybe it is not just about ghosts, but it is the terror of love; of losing yourself/your identity in someone else to the extent where you do not recognise yourself, either that or that dementia is a horrible disease. But, more interestingly we never got to know what happened to Flora's parents aside from an accident on a trip to India, but what really happened?